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Butte photographer's images of Indigenous women highlight MMIW crisis

Posted at 6:36 PM, May 04, 2023

BUTTE — You may not know the name Jen Buckley but you’ve probably seen her powerful images of native women with red handprints on their faces. This Butte woman is bringing awareness to the problem of missing Native and Indigenous women.

“There is a very large portion of Indigenous women that go missing and also they’re just not looked for the same way,” said Buckley.

Buckley, who is Chippewa Cree, connected with this issue when Jermain Charlo went missing almost five years ago. She said Native American women rarely receive national attention when they go missing the way young, white women do.

“For instance, Gabby Petito going missing, I mean, we all want to look for everybody that’s missing, but when Jermain went missing the same efforts were not given,” she said.

Buckley’s photos have appeared on billboards around the state, including one at Utah and Aluminum streets in Butte. She will host an event in front of the Butte Courthouse where she will invite the public to pour red sand in the cracks of the sidewalk.

“To be able to represent all the Indigenous people that have fallen through the cracks of the criminal justice system,” said Buckley.

The National Crime Information Center in 2016 reported there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls missing. The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates that 4,200 cases of missing and murdered native women have gone unsolved. It’s also estimated that four in five native women have experienced violence in their lifetime.

“All we want is that acknowledgment that there is the difference and then how to do we come together and bridge that gap,” she said.

The red sand ceremony will be held in front of the Butte Courthouse on May 5 from 6 to 7 p.m.